Russian fake-news story about AG Lynch may have gotten Trump elected, gag!

A secret document that officials say played a key role in then-FBI Director James B. Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation has long been viewed within the FBI as unreliable and possibly a fake, according to people familiar with its contents.

In the midst of the 2016 presidential primary season, the FBI received what was described as a Russian intelligence document claiming a tacit understanding between the Clinton campaign and the Justice Department over the inquiry into whether she intentionally revealed classified information through her use of a private email server.

Former Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch

The Russian document cited a supposed email describing how then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter. If true, the revelation of such an understanding would have undermined the integrity of the FBI’s investigation.

Current and former officials have said that Comey relied on the document in making his July decision to announce on his own, without Justice Department involvement, that the investigation was over. That public announcement — in which he criticized Clinton and made extensive comments about the evidence — set in motion a chain of other FBI moves that Democrats now say helped Trump win the presidential election.

But according to the FBI’s own assessment, the document was bad intelligence — and according to people familiar with its contents, possibly even a fake sent to confuse the bureau. The Americans mentioned in the Russian document insist they do not know each other, do not speak to each other and never had any conversations remotely like the ones described in the document. Investigators have long doubted its veracity, and by August the FBI had concluded it was unreliable.

The document, obtained by the FBI, was a piece of purported analysis by Russian intelligence, the people said. It referred to an email supposedly written by the then-chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), and sent to Leonard Benardo, an official with the Open Society Foundations, an organization founded by billionaire George Soros and dedicated to promoting democracy.

The Russian document did not contain a copy of the email, but it described some of the contents of the purported message.

In the supposed email, Wasserman Schultz claimed Lynch had been in private communication with a senior Clinton campaign staffer named Amanda Renteria during the campaign. The document indicated Lynch had told Renteria that she would not let the FBI investigation into Clinton go too far, according to people familiar with it.

Current and former officials have argued that the secret document gave Comey good reason to take the extraordinary step over the summer of announcing the findings of the Clinton investigation himself without Justice Department involvement.

James Comey

Comey had little choice, these people have said, because he feared that if Lynch announced no charges against Clinton, and then the secret document leaked, the legitimacy of the entire case would be questioned.

From the moment the bureau received the document from a source in early March 2016, its veracity was the subject of an internal debate at the FBI. Several people familiar with the matter said the bureau’s doubts about the document hardened in August when officials became more certain that there was nothing to substantiate the claims in the Russian document. FBI officials knew the bureau never had the underlying email with the explosive allegation, if it ever existed.

Yet senior officials at the bureau continued to rely on the document before and after the election as part of their justification for how they handled the case.

Wasserman Schultz and Benardo said in separate interviews with The Washington Post that they do not know each other and have never communicated. Renteria, in an interview, and people familiar with Lynch’s account said the two also do not know each other and have never communicated. Lynch declined to comment for this article.

Wasserman Schultz

Moreover, Wasserman Schultz, Benardo and Renteria said they have never been interviewed by the FBI about the matter.

Comey’s defenders still insist that there is reason to believe the document is legitimate and that it rightly played a major role in the director’s thinking.

“It was a very powerful factor in the decision to go forward in July with the statement that there shouldn’t be a prosecution,” said a person familiar with the matter. “The point is that the bureau picked up hacked material that hadn’t been dumped by the bad guys [the Russians] involving Lynch. And that would have pulled the rug out of any authoritative announcement.”

Other people familiar with the document disagree sharply, saying such claims are disingenuous because the FBI has known for a long time that the Russian intelligence document is unreliable and based on multiple layers of hearsay.

“It didn’t mean anything to the investigation until after [senior FBI officials] had to defend themselves,” said one person familiar with the matter. “Then they decided it was important. But it’s junk, and they already knew that.”

An FBI spokesman declined to comment. Comey did not respond to requests for comment.

The people familiar with the Russian document spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss its contents. No one familiar with it asked The Post to withhold details about its origins to safeguard the source.

Several of them said they were concerned that revealing details now about the document could be perceived as an effort to justify Trump’s decision to fire Comey, but they argued that the document and Comey’s firing are distinct issues. Most of the people familiar with the document disagree strongly with the decision to fire the director, but they also criticized current and former officials who have privately cited the document as an important factor in the decisions made by Comey and other senior FBI officials. Comey told lawmakers he would discuss it with them only in a classified session.

After the bureau first received the document, it attempted to use the source to obtain the referenced email but could not do so, these people said. The source that provided the document, they said, had previously supplied other information that the FBI was also unable to corroborate.

While it was conducting the Clinton email investigation, the FBI did not interview anyone mentioned in the Russian document about its claims. At the time, FBI agents were probing numerous hacking cases involving Democrats and other groups, but they never found an email like the one described in the document, these people said.

Then on July 5, Comey decided to announce on his own — without telling Lynch ahead of time — that he was closing the Clinton email case without recommending charges against anyone. Aides to Comey said he decided to act alone after Lynch met privately with Bill Clinton for nearly a half-hour on an airport tarmac in Phoenix about a week earlier — and have since said privately the Russian document was also a factor in that decision.

The appearance of possible conflict arising from the Phoenix meeting led FBI leadership to want to show it had reached the decision independently, without political interference from the Justice Department.

About a month after Comey’s announcement, FBI officials asked to meet privately with the attorney general. At the meeting, they told Lynch about a foreign source suggesting she had told Renteria that Clinton did not have to worry about the email probe, because she would keep the FBI in check, according to people familiar with the matter.

“Just so you know, I don’t know this person and have never communicated with her,’’ Lynch told the FBI officials, according to a person familiar with the discussion. The FBI officials assured her the conversation was not a formal interview and said the document “didn’t have investigative value,’’ the person said.

Nevertheless, the officials said, they wanted to give the attorney general what is sometimes referred to as a “defensive briefing’’ — advising someone of a potential intelligence issue that could come up at some future point.

The agents never mentioned Wasserman Schultz to Lynch but told her there was some uncertainty surrounding the information because of “possible translation issues,” according to a person familiar with the discussion.

Lynch told them they were welcome to speak to her staff and to conduct a formal interview of her, the person said. The FBI declined both offers.

Renteria, a California Democrat, first heard of the Russian document and its description of her role when a Post reporter called her.

“Wow, that’s kind of weird and out of left field,’’ she said. “I don’t know Loretta Lynch, the attorney general. I haven’t spoken to her.’’

Renteria said she did know a California woman by the same name who specializes in utility issues. The Loretta Lynch in California is a lawyer who once did campaign work for the Clintons decades ago involving the Whitewater investigation. Bloggers and others have previously confused the two women, including during Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general.

Wasserman Schultz and Benardo, the alleged emailers, were also perplexed by the Russian document’s claims.

Wasserman Schultz said: “Not only do I not know him — I’ve never heard of him. I don’t know who this is. There’s no truth to this whatsoever. I have never sent an email remotely like what you’re describing.’’

She added that she had met Lynch, the former attorney general, once briefly at a dinner function.

Benardo said of Wasserman Schultz: “I’ve never met her. I’ve only read about her.”

“I’ve never in my lifetime received any correspondence of any variety — correspondence, fax, telephone, from Debbie Wasserman Schultz,’’ he said. “If such documentation exists, it’s of course made up.’’

As for Renteria, Wasserman Schultz said she knew who she was from past political work but had “virtually no interaction” with her during the 2016 campaign. “I was definitely in the same room as her on more than one occasion, but we did not interact, and no email exchange during the campaign, or ever,’’ she said.

When asked, the individuals named in the document struggled to fathom why their identities would have been woven together in a document describing communications they said never happened. But others recognized the dim outlines of a conspiracy theory that would be less surprising in Russia, where Soros — the founder of the organization Benardo works for — and Clinton are both regarded as political enemies of the Kremlin.

“The idea that Russians would tell a story in which the Clinton campaign, Soros and even an Obama administration official are connected — that Russians might tell such a story, that is not at all surprising,” said Matt Rojansky, a Russia expert and director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center. “Because that is part of the Kremlin worldview.”

The secret intelligence document has attracted so much attention recently that Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Comey about it during the director’s final public appearance in Congress as FBI director before he was fired.

Comey said that he had spoken with the heads of the congressional intelligence committees about the document privately but that it was too sensitive to discuss it in public.

“The subject is classified, and in an appropriate forum I’d be happy to brief you on it,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “But I can’t do it in an open hearing.”

No such briefing occurred before he was fired.

Trump threatens to withdraw from NATO and throw our allies under the bus for his BFF Putin

Trump is still doing his Putin Puppet schtick

In a speech to NATO leaders, President Trump says NATO must focus on terrorism and that “nations owe massive amounts of money” on defense.

Thursday’s NATO meeting was scheduled to allow Trump and leaders of NATO states to take the measure of each other. The 27 other members had hoped to relieve anxiety that arose during Trump’s campaign, when he questioned why the United States was spending its own money to defend Europe, called NATO “obsolete” and ill-equipped to deal with terrorism, and threatened to withdraw if other members failed to pay their “fair share.”

Washington Post and youtube

Donny has so lowered our expectations that he is given effusive credit if he ever performs a routine function even adequately.

Albert Hunt: The Age of Trump Is ‘Defining Deviancy Down’

When the president seems inept or corrupt, we shrug. If he ever fumbles through adequately, he is praised.

Pat Moynihan, the great politician-intellectual, warned about the dangers of “defining deviancy down,” in which worse and

Albert Hunt

worse behavior comes to be accepted as the norm.

The late New York senator’s essay, almost a quarter century ago, was about crime and family structure. Today it applies to the Trump presidency: the danger that chronic lying, ignorance of history and policy, petty invective, racial demagoguery and personal greed fall within the realm of the norm.

If President Donald Trump gives a speech that is reasonably coherent or takes a sensible action, suddenly even some critics treat it as a momentous occurrence. But wait a moment. That’s actually what presidents are supposed to do.

When he commits one of his especially egregious acts, the news media world too often fall into one flawed approach or another. Either they downshift into partisan mode — in which those who constantly attack him continue to do so, and those who critique his critics continue their barrage — or they pursue a misbegotten mission for “balance.”

The sudden firing of the FBI director, James Comey, last week gave us a perfect example. The move was shocking because Comey was leading the investigation into whether any Trump operatives colluded with the Kremlin to affect the American presidential election.

Virtually everything the White House said for two days was untrue: that the action had nothing to do with the Russian probe; that the president fired Comey only because of the recommendation of the attorney general, who supposedly was recusing himself from the matter, and the deputy attorney general; that the president was shocked at “atrocities” Comey committed in an earlier investigation of Hillary Clinton; and that morale was terrible at the FBI. It isn’t clear whether White House aides, and Vice President Mike Pence, lied or whether they were lied to by the president.

It gets worse. Roger Stone, a longtime dirty trickster who has been close to Trump starting three decades ago courtesy of the nefarious Roy Cohn, boasted that he advised the president to fire Comey. Stone, who last year predicted it “soon will be (John) Podesta’s time in the barrel” seven weeks before the Russian-spawned leak of the Clinton chairman’s emails, is a prime suspect in the investigation.

There is one clear truth: Trump fired Comey to stifle the Russia investigation. One reason the bureau considers it a “significant investigation” is a pattern of Trump associates caught in lies about their Russian connections: foreign policy adviser Carter Page, the administration’s initial national security adviser Michael Flynn and the attorney general Jeff Sessions.

Duplicity is the norm for Trump. As a candidate he repeatedly lied. As president he has persistently peddled fiction like the crazed charge that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower and baseless claims of widespread illegal voting.

But it is not the president alone who is defining deviancy down. It’s also how people react to his actions.

When Trump fired missiles at a Syrian airbase, the usually sensible Fareed Zakaria declared “He became President of the United States” with that action. To be president is to have a coherent policy and to pursue it. Can this administration articulate a policy on Syria or North Korea or Russia?

Clear thinking from leading voices in business, economics, politics, foreign affairs, culture, and more.

After Trump’s first address to Congress, the liberal commentator Van Jones gushed over his honoring the widow of a Navy Seal, calling it “one of the most extraordinary moments” in American politics. It was a nice touch, but not as memorable Ronald Reagan honoring the doomed Challenger space crew, or George W. Bush with a bullhorn at Ground Zero after 9/11 or Barack Obama singing “Amazing Grace” at a Charleston church after a white supremacist killed nine African-Americans at a Bible study.

(Actually one of the few memorable lines that evening was Trump’s call that “the time for trivial fights is over.” What a thought. In a tweet a few days ago, the president of the United States renewed his bickering with Rosie O’Donnell.)

This president has so lowered our expectations that he is given effusive credit if he ever performs a routine function even adequately.

James M. Perry, a great Wall Street Journal political reporter, used to worry about any would-be president who didn’t know much about history. Trump keeps demonstrating that he knows almost no history. On ethics, he and his family seems to view 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a no-risk hedge fund to enrich themselves.

Imagine what Pat Moynihan would say.

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-05-14/the-age-of-trump-is-defining-deviancy-down

Pope Francis skoolz “Donny two scoops” on economics, climate change, and nonviolence

The Examiner would like to note that despite the Pope’s good intentions, giving Trump books to read is the equivalent of leaving them in the orangutans pen at the zoo.

Is the Pope praying? Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. Luke 22:42

Pope Francis politely shades Trump’s climate ignorance with a parting gift

Pope Francis and Donald Trump had their much anticipated first in-person meeting on Wednesday, a 30-minute conversation in which the pope reportedly “did not smile” as he asked the president to work to bring about peace in the world. Despite concern that the two leaders — who hold diametrically opposite views on several issues — might spar during the summit, the exchange appeared to be relatively free of fireworks.

But according to the National Catholic Reporter, Francis did offer Trump a none-too-subtle parting gift as he left: copies of the pontiff’s published works on progressive economics, climate change, and nonviolence.

Almost all of the documents Francis presented to Trump conflict with the president’s agenda in some way (with the possible exception of Amoris Laetitia, a 2016 work on the Catholic church’s developing view of family life).

For example, Francis gave Trump a copy of Laudato Si’, the pope’s famous encyclical on the environment that was published in 2015.

Unlike Trump, who once claimed climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, Francis’ encyclical affirms that global warming has been confirmed by a “very consistent scientific consensus” and that humans are the cause. And while Trump has proposed budget cuts to climate initiatives and threatened to rescind America’s participation in the historic Paris Climate Accords, Francis’ Laudato Si’ insists nations take steps to reduce carbon emissions.

Almost all of the documents Francis presented to Trump conflict with the president’s agenda in some way.

“It is urgent to develop policy so that in the coming years, we drastically reduce carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gas emissions, by, for example, replacing fossil fuels and developing renewable energy sources,” a translation of the encyclical reads.

Francis also handed Trump a copy of Evangelii Gaudium, a 2013 papal exhortation that espouses a deeply progressive view of economics. In it, Francis decried the “idolatry of money” and dismissed trickle-down economics — a centerpiece of conservative monetary policy — as something that has “never been confirmed by the facts.”

Trump, on the other hand, is known to exaggerate his own extravagant wealth, and is currently pushing a budget that will bolster the wealthy while cutting programs that aid the poor.

Francis then made a point to show the president a signed copy of the message he delivered on the 2017 World Day of Peace, in which the pope lifted up nonviolence as a political method for global problem-solving.

“When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promoters of nonviolent peacemaking,” Francis declares in the speech. “In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.”

The pontiff sought to drive the point home by handing Trump a medallion he often presents to world leaders, which depicts an olive tree binding together a broken rock. “I am giving you this because I hope you may be this olive tree to make peace,” Francis said.

“We can use peace,” Trump replied.

Trump, however, has been lauded by conservatives for his willingness to use some of the largest weapons available against militants in the Middle East. He also campaigned on promises to rapidly expand the military, “bomb the hell” out of America’s enemies, and reinstitute the use of water boarding as a tactic.

As he left, Trump promised Francis he would mull over the writings, saying, “Well, I’ll be reading them.”

As they concluded, Francis moved away from policy to have a more lighthearted moment with the President, although the exact meaning appears to be lost in translation: he took First Lady Melania Trump by the hand, looked over at the president, and quipped, “What do you give him to eat?”

UPDATE: According to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Vatican’s Secretary of State also urged Trump to keep America in the Paris climate agreement.

From Think progress

A scene from the Godfather or traditional sicilian funeral?

Despite ISIS and Trump, even more collusion and treason news comes out

Former CIA director Brennan warned FSB chief that Moscow’s election interference would backfire.

Former CIA director John Brennan said Tuesday that he personally warned the head of Russia’s intelligence service last year that Moscow’s interference in the U.S. election would backfire and cause severe damage to the country’s relationship with the United States.

Describing a previously undisclosed high-level discussion between Washington and Moscow, Brennan said in a phone conversation with the head of Russia’s domestic security service, the FSB, that “American voters would be outraged by any Russian attempt to interfere in the election.”

In congressional testimony, Brennan said that such meddling “would destroy any near-term prospect of improvement” in relations between the United States and Russia. Brennan said that the FSB chief, Alexander Bortnikov, twice denied that Russia was waging such a campaign, but said he would carry Brennan’s message to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

“I believe I was the first U.S. official to brace Russia on this matter,” Brennan said. His remarks came at the start of his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee as part of that panel’s ongoing investigation of a Russian influence campaign in the 2016 presidential election, as well as whether there was collusion or coordination between Moscow and members of the Trump campaign.

Brennan led the CIA during a critical period last year when U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia was not only attempting to disrupt the election but was actively seeking to defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and help elect Trump.

Brennan was among the top officials who briefed then-President-elect Trump on that conclusion — which represented the consensus view of the CIA, the FBI and the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Brennan became so alarmed by the Russian intervention last fall that he held classified meetings with top congressional officials to impress upon them the unprecedented nature of Moscow’s interference.

Brennan testified that he was disturbed by intelligence that surfaced last year showing a pattern of contacts between Russian agents or representatives and individuals with links to the Trump campaign. “I was aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons that raised concerns in my mind,” Brennan said. He emphasized that the information he saw did not amount to proof of collusion or cooperation between Trump associates and Russia, but said that it “served as the basis for the FBI investigation.”

With that remark, Brennan appeared to identify the point of origin of the FBI investigation that began last July – the first time that a U.S. official has provided insight into what prompted the bureau probe.

He said that the targets of those Russian approaches may not even have been aware of the nature of the contacts, because Russian services often disguise their efforts by using intermediaries. “Many times [U.S. individuals] do not know that the individual they are interacting with is a Russian,” Brennan said.

The former CIA chief is the latest in a series of senior Obama administration officials to appear publicly before Congress in hearings that have often produced damaging headlines for Trump.

Earlier this month, former acting attorney general Sally Yates testified that she expected White House officials to “take action” after warning that then-national security adviser Michael T. Flynn had misled administration officials about his contacts with Russia.

At that same hearing, former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said that Moscow’s leaders “must be congratulating themselves for having exceeded their wildest expectations with a minimal expenditure of resource,” a reference not only to the outcome of the 2016 race, but the chaos that has characterized the early months of the Trump administration.

Brennan has feuded publicly with Trump over the president’s treatment of intelligence agencies. In January, he lashed out at Trump for comparing U.S. spy agencies to Nazi secret police.

Brennan was particularly offended by Trump’s remarks during a speech at CIA headquarters on the day he was inaugurated. Trump used the CIA’s Wall of Honor — a collection of engraved stars marking lives of agency operatives killed in the line of duty — to launch a rambling speech in which he bragged about his election victory.

Brennan called the appearance “despicable” and said that Trump should be “ashamed.”

Greg Miller for The Washington Post.

 

The president reportedly attempted to enlist the head of the NSA and director of national intelligence to defend against the Russia inquiry.

Rogers NSA

Donald Trump reportedly tried, unsuccessfully, to enlist Admiral Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, and Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, to publicly refute the possibility of collusion after former FBI Director James Comey announced in March that the bureau is investigating potential links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government, according to The Washington Post on Monday.

DNI Coats

Citing unnamed government officials, the Post’s Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima report that Trump asked Coats and Rogers “to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.” But, according to the report, the intelligence officials turned down the ask, “which they both deemed to be inappropriate.” The White House told the Post that it would not confirm or deny the allegations.

The news follows a series of potentially damaging reports centered on Trump and the former FBI director. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that Trump asked Comey to halt a federal investigation into his former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who was ousted from the administration after making false claims about his contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and that Trump had unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Comey to pledge loyalty prior to abruptly firing him on May 9th. The White House disputes both reports.

Former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed by the Justice Department to serve as a special counsel in the Russia investigation earlier this month. CNN reported on Monday that Mueller has already been briefed on memos drafted by Comey detailing his interactions with Trump. Monday’s Post report suggests there may be an even more extensive paper trail that could come under scrutiny as part of the investigation.

According to the Post:

Trump’s conversation with Rogers was documented contemporaneously in an internal memo written by a senior NSA official, according to the officials. It is unclear if a similar memo was prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to document Trump’s conversation with Coats. Officials said such memos could be made available to both the special counsel now overseeing the Russia investigation and congressional investigators, who might explore whether Trump sought to impede the FBI’s work.

Congressional Democrats have accused Trump of obstructing justice following reports that he attempted to intervene in the Flynn investigation and another Times report that Trump told Russian officials that he felt relieved of pressure caused by the Russia inquiry after firing Comey.

The Post’s report on Monday also contends that White House officials “sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly with Comey to encourage the FBI to drop its probe of Michael Flynn.”

When Trump fired Comey, he originally cited a memo criticizing the FBI chief’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server. He later openly acknowledged in an interview with NBC News that “this Russia thing” was on his mind  when he made the decision to fire Comey, who at the time had been serving as the head of the bureau probing ties between Trump associates and the Russian government.

The White House has insisted that there is no evidence of collusion. And Trump flatly denied the possibility at a press conference last week, saying “there was no collusion” with Russia. In the letter the president sent to Comey telling him he had been fired, Trump wrote that he had “greatly appreciate[d]” the FBI director “informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.”

Despite Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, Democrats have continued to urge the formation of an independent commission to further probe the extent of Russian involvement in the election. Those calls, and the pressure on Congress to support such a move, may grow louder now.

 

 

 

 

 

Surprise! Flynn intends to invoke his right against self-incrimination…..oops

Flynn on the hot seat

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn will not be cooperating with a Senate intelligence committee investigation, according to the Associated Press. He intends to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination Monday to avoid turning over documents lawmakers have subpoenaed related to his interactions with Russian officials.
Neither the leaders of the Senate intelligence committee nor Flynn’s lawyer returned requests for comment.
Flynn resigned in February, after it was revealed that he lied about whether he had substantive contacts with the Russian ambassador before President Donald Trump took office.
Trump kept Flynn in the administration long after the White House had been alerted to his ethics issues. Before Trump’s inauguration, Flynn had told the transition team that he was under federal investigation for secretly lobbying for the Turkish government during the campaign, according to The New York Times. Even with this information, Trump named him national security adviser.
During the campaign, Flynn criticized the technology specialist who set up Hillary Clinton’s private email server for invoking his Fifth Amendment rights during a court case.

Trump has also blasted Clinton associates for pleading the Fifth, arguing, “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
The Senate intelligence committee has also requested documents from former Trump adviser Carter Page, who is so far refusing to cooperate. He told Business Insider Monday that he has no plans to plead the Fifth because he’s “never done anything wrong.”
Trump continued to keep Flynn on the job after Sally Yates, the acting attorney general, warned the White House that he could be subject to blackmail by the Russians for hiding his contacts with the ambassador.
The president is now under fire for reports that he urged FBI Director James Comey to drop his investigation into Flynn during an Oval Office meeting in February. Trump fired Comey last week and admitted that the bureau’s Russia probe was on his mind when he did so.
The House intelligence committee also announced Thursday that it has requested documents from the Justice Department and the FBI related to Comey’s dismissal and any conversations between Trump and the former FBI director.

Amanda Terkel Huffington post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/michael-flynn-senate-intelligence_us_5922ea65e4b03b485cb33b4a?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009

The nefarious plan to kill affordable health care without even having a vote in Congress

Trump reportedly plans to sabotage Obamacare by cutting off low-income subsidies

The move would make it harder for millions of people to buy health coverage.

Donald Trump has frequently suggested that Obamacare is “collapsing” and predicted that statewide marketplaces will soon cease to function. But if the health care law doesn’t fall off a cliff on its own, he appears more than willing to give it a push.

On Friday —amid a storm of Russia-related leaks and news of the president’s imminent departure for Saudi Arabia — Politico reported that Trump has quietly decided to end approximately $7 billion annually in cost-sharing subsidies for low-income people who purchase their health care on the Obamacare exchanges. Each year, these payments help reduce the co-payments and deductibles of approximately 7 million low-income people who get their insurance on the marketplaces.

Ending these payments wouldn’t just hurt those 7 million people. Without those subsidies to keep their lower deductible plans afloat, some insurance companies would likely exit the Obamacare marketplaces — or hike their premiums to compensate for the shortfall. The result could be a devastating ripple effect through the entire private marketplace system.

Trump has threatened to kill off the cost-sharing subsidies before, but seemed to back down after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Democrats would be willing to shut down the government if continued payments weren’t guaranteed.

On Friday, eight concerned parties — including the American Medical Association, BlueCross BlueShield, the Federation of American Hospitals, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — sent a joint letter to the Senate leadership of both parties, urging them to pass legislation that would ensure the cost-sharing payments continue.

“The individual market is their only option for getting coverage. Unless CSRs [cost sharing reductions] are funded, a tremendous number of Americans will simply go without coverage and move to the ranks of the uninsured,” they wrote. “This threatens not just their own health and financial stability, but also the economic stability of their communities.”
https://thinkprogress.org/trump-plans-to-sabotage-obamacare-de692395121e

 

Trump reportedly wants to kill critical Obamacare subsidies, despite warnings health insurance premiums would spike: CNBC

President Donald Trump now reportedly wants to pull the plug on a big pot of Obamacare money — which could send insurance prices soaring for millions of Americans.

Trump told advisers Tuesday he wants to stop reimbursing health insurers for important Obamacare subsidies, which could spark political blowback for him and other Republicans as premiums rise, Politico.com reported.

A White House official told CNBC on Friday, “The White House has told Congress that it will make” payments to the insurers for May, “but has not made any commitment on further payments.”

“No final decisions have been made at this time, and all options are on the table,” the official said.

Insurers are obligated by the Affordable Care Act to grant the subsidies, known as cost-sharing reductions, to eligible customers.

Politico posted the story before a group including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the American Medical Association sent the Senate a letter urging Congress to take action to guarantee a steady stream of cost-sharing reduction funding through 2018.

“Such action would represent a strong, positive step for all consumers who buy their own insurance by eliminating the single most destabilizing factor causing double-digit premium increases for 2018,” the letter said.

The subsidies reduce the out-of-pocket charges — such as co-payments, deductibles, and coinsurance — that people have to pay when they receive health treatment, prescription medication and other medical services.

The federal government, in turn, is supposed to reimburse insurers for their cost — estimated at $7 billion this year.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has challenged the legality of the federal reimbursements in court, claiming the Obama administration was paying insurers without congressional appropriation.

A federal judge agreed with the House but stayed her ruling as the Obama administration appealed.

On Thursday, 16 Democratic state attorneys general sought to intervene in the appeal, with the goal of keeping the funding for insurers in place. Their filings said Trump is using decisions that could affect health insurance for millions of people “as little more than political bargaining chips,” according to their court filing.

On Monday, the Trump administration is scheduled to tell the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia how, or if, it will resolve the House’s lawsuit. However, as Politico noted, the administration and the House could ask Monday for the case to be put on hold for 90 days.

A staunch critic of Obamacare, Trump could order an end to the payments even as that appeal, now being handled by his administration, remains pending. But until this week it was not clear that he actually wanted to do so.

Politico reported that “many senior administration officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, are leery of ending the payments, however, because it could immediately unravel the Obamacare insurance markets and strongly discourage insurers from participating next year.”

Health analysts say insurers would be forced to hike their premium prices for individual health plans sharply to make up for the lost federal funding, while still being required to offer reduced out-of-pocket costs for lower-income customers.

In a letter Wednesday to Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and The Center for Insurance Policy and Research said that “the one concern” that insurers “consistently raise as they consider whether to participate” in Obamacare markets in 2018 is uncertainty over the subsidies.

And even if they do participate, insurers have told state regulators “the uncertainty of this funding could add a 15-20% load to” premium rates “or even more.”

The letter, a version of which was also sent to leaders in the Senate, urged “the Administration to continue full funding for the cost-sharing reduction payments for 2017 and make a commitment that such payments will continue, unless the law is changed.”

Andy Slavitt, who oversaw Obamacare for the Obama administration, told CNBC, “The insurance commissioners know, politics aside, ordinary Americans are going to be hurt by these policies.”

“The Trump Administration can only try to break the ACA and [flout] the law for so long before everyone begins to squeal,” said Slavitt, who had been acting administrator for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

People whose household incomes are less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for the subsidies, which are different from the financial aid most Obamacare customers receive to lower their monthly premiums. To get the cost-sharing reductions, eligible customers must sign up for a so-called silver plan on government-run Obamacare exchanges.

Silver plans cover 70 percent of their customers’ health expenses, with customers being responsible for the balance out-of-pocket, if they are not eligible for cost-sharing assistance.

On Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported that a top Trump administration health official, Seema Verma, in April, suggested that insurers could receive the cost-sharing reduction funds from the government if insurers backed Trump’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Verma, who is administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “stunned insurance industry officials by suggesting a bargain: The administration would fund the CSRs if insurers supported the House Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” the LA Times reported.

The Times quoted CMS spokeswoman Jane Norris, after being asked about that claim, as denying Verma made any such quid pro quo suggestion.

“What she said at the … meeting in April was that no decisions had been made about CSRs,” Norris said.

On Friday, Norris told CNBC in an emailed statement, “The LA Times story is completely false. The assertion that Administrator Verma offered to fund the CSR in exchange for support for legislation is preposterous.”

Noam Levey, the Times reporter for that article, said, “I appreciate CMS’ comments, which we were happy to include in the article when they were provided. Others that we spoke to in the course of extensively researching the article had a different sense of that meeting. We felt it was important to report that.”